Digested read: Did New Year’s Day Double today, staring at Delamere parkrun and then topping it off here at Northwich parkrun. Very welcoming gathering, thanks for having me. The End.
If you want to linger, I can oblige. Hereafter follows the unexpurgated version of my Northwich parkrun immersive experience. Enjoy or not as you wish, but remember if you choose to read on, you do so at your own risk, and so are guilty at the very least of contributory negligence if you reach the end and regret the minutes of your life you can never now recover. Harsh, but true.
Right then, as long as we are clear, I’ll press on.
New Year’s Day Double for parkrun. Are you with me so far? This is the special parkrun dispensation which means for one day only, you can run not one, but TWO parkruns on the same day, and have them recorded. Subject to logistics and parkruns available in your area. I know, fabulous! Great start to the decade. Or not, depending on whether or not you think the decade ended at midnight on 31 Dec 2019 or will end on 31 Dec 2020. I opt for the former, though concede the logic of the later if you are interested at all.
So, I’d already spent a morning at Delamere parkrun before heading over to Northwich. You can read my account of Delamere parkrun on New Year’s Day too here if you like. Doing a parkrun double has become something of a tradition for me. This is the fourth year I’ve done it, though I did miss a year when working overseas – never been more homesick. However, it was a first for me to go quite so far afield from my home base of Sheffield. Apologies, but I’d never even really heard of Northwich parkrun before, it just popped up as an option when I was perusing New Year’s Day doable Double challenges based on my speed, and preference for off road and one lap courses. Delamere parkrun seemed a great option, and they seemed to have teamed up with Northwich so rude not to combine the two really.
I did do a bit of research in advance, not over much, just enough to satisfy myself that there would be a reasonable amount of parking as I expected to be one of the later arrivals there. Also I did have a quick gander at the official parkrun website where I discovered the blah de blah on the Northwich parkrun describes the course thus:
The course explores the hidden Northwich Woodland whilst following the River Weaver. There is a mixture of both path and trail ground consisting of a small loop and a larger loop with views of Neumanns Flashes. The course ends near Old Marbury Road giving a short warm down walk back to the car park.
Fair does. Didn’t altogether enlighten me, but as long as it isn’t 5 laps of a cross country field it’ll be grand.
There are no toilets on the course, however the nearest toilets are located at Asda Barons Quay approximately 200 metres away.
Whoa, hang on, what horror is this? Fortunately, forewarned is forearmed, I can attend to that prior to arrival. Hopefully.
And it looks like this:
which is basically very confusing. Still, no worries, I’ll just do what I always do and follow everyone else. And yes, that probably does mean I’d follow a gang of parkrunners pretty much anywhere, including over the edge of a cliff, because I am trusting of other parkrunners. Also, to be fair, I’m quite slow, so even if such a strategy was ill-advised, trundling along at the back I’d land softly on the pile of previously landed strewn parkrunners, so it’d be fine. It usually is all alright in the end in my experience, particularly if you take the view that if it isn’t fine, then it can’t be the end. I find this logic helpful! You can adopt it too if you like. You’re welcome. 🙂
So I completed my parkrun at the delectable Delamere, and joined the convoy of cars making their way over to Northwich. Ira can report that along the way, I spotted little hardy gaggles of parkrunners sprinting between the two venues. Impressive, and no, they weren’t in need of a lift, they were doing it for fun and deliberately. Hard though it may be to comprehend, I remind myself that I found the whole concept of parkrun mysterious and incomprehensible before I became a participant, and now I understand the intoxicating buzz of parkrun day and the importance of respecting everyone’s right to participate in their own way. Also, if I had the speed I can see the appeal of doing longer distances, it’s just not really a viable option for me, unless I ran between two different parkruns on two consecutive weeks perhaps – which might actually be a great way to do a UK run trip now I come to think of it. One day maybe, one day.
Passing previously referenced parkrunners gave me confidence that I should be in time for the start of Northwich parkrun. I had told myself that in the worst case scenario I’d do a freedom run if I couldn’t catch up with the tail walker, and that would be ‘fine’, but in my heart of hearts I know if I hadn’t been able to finish and get a time I’d have inwardly sobbed buckets and outwardly adopted a pained expression of matyrdom whilst fighting back hot bitter tears railing at the awfulness of my plight. Hoping now this wouldn’t be necessary, I followed the post code given on their info page – CW9 5LQ which was to take me to the Cumberland car park adjacent to the parkrun venue which is Carey Park.
Can’t lie, the approach to Northwich parkrun does suffer a bit by direct comparison to Delamere parkrun. You are no longer amidst misty forest scapes, but in an urban sprawl, picking your way through a labyrinth of concrete superstores and rather more mini roundabouts than you might think strictly necessary. However, on the plus side, lots of car parks. Lots of spaces. I was delighted when I spotted a queue of parkrunners waiting to get the car parking tickets and just pulled up and parked immediately alongside them. I set about silently congratulating myself for my extraordinary deductive skills that would have pleased Jessica Fletcher and Miss Marple alike – did you know Jessica Fletcher is a parkrun tourist by the way? She has a cow cowl, plus she’s jogging in the opening sequence, in fact she’s often out jogging, quite a committed runner I’d say… Not sure which parkruns these pictures are at, but they could be American ones.
Unfortunately, my marvelling at my own genius and self congratulatory mood was short lived, as the awful consequences of the queue became apparent. Now, car parking here was cheap – only a £1 for a whole day, that’s good. There was ample parking too. Also good. Not good, only one of four ticket machines was working, and they were the most ridiculously officious, complicated, non-intuitive machines to operate. Every single parkrunner had to learn how to use it. You had to put in your registration number, which not everyone knew off hand, so that was quite stressful, and if you were paying by card, you also had to input a pin number for that, and it too ages and ages. Probably a minute for each person in the queue, and although I’d arrived at 10.15 for a 10.30 start, and you could almost see the start from where we were, it wasn’t looking good. It was also the most depressingly fly-tipped and littered car park I’d ever seen*. Not the best first impression. I’d rather have paid double or even triple the amount, and them use the money to maintain the place. It was really sad…
*update* I’ve been advised this was not typical, but an informal camp of some sort popped up in the car park over new year, so don’t be deterred dear reader, it may well be pristine when you appear!
On the plus side, this is England and we do love a queue. Also, parkrunners are very good at staying in order in queues on account of all the practise we have staying in order in the finish funnel. What’s more, it was long enough to make new friends and consider strategies. Some bailed entirely, going with the ‘surely no-one will ticket us on New Year’s Day’ philosophy. Bold I feel. Speaking as someone who has been ticketed at a parkrun despite having a valid ticket because it wasn’t clearly enough displayed I presume no leniency or leeway with car park attendants. Someone else who’d been stung with a £100 or possibly 100 euro fine in I think Denmark, for not knowing how to set his parking meter correctly during a 7 minute supermarket stop was like me more cautious. His track record was pretty poor – he’d apparently also been stung for buying a ticket from a machine which issued a ticket which actually said ‘this ticket machine is out of order’ and so was fined despite not realising that’s what it said. He’s not like Dracula, he can’t absorb the language of a new country by drinking the blood of its population even if that was either the parkrun way or a socially acceptable thing to do. Don’t you think the new BBC Dracula adaptation is super scary by the way? Can’t wait for the next episode, though I will be sure to have a couple of cushions handy to hide behind on stand by… Funny and appropriately camp too, love it!
Spare non-driving parkrunners were despatched to check other ticket machines really weren’t working. They weren’t, but at least sending them off and waiting for them to come and report back broke the tedium by providing some enrichment for us queuers. Some of the faster parkrunners sent slower one’s off ahead on the basis they’d be more likely to catch up the tail if required. I started off relaxed about the whole thing, but weirdly got increasingly stressed the closer I got to the front of the queue. I was also near paralysed by performance anxiety when it came to operating the ticket machine. Oh the pressure to get it right speedily first time! It was worse than having someone watch me parallel park! Fortunately dear reader, my fellow parkrunners were a compassionate and supportive lot, talking me through it and reassuring me it would all be fine.
I got my ticket, and it was on the dashboard at 10.29. Phew. I sprinted across to the start, through the distinctive iron gates with the torn apart ladybird, over the bridge with the strange industrial pipework and joined the back of the parkrun crowd wondering vaguely if that person hanging around might be… no, probably not.
I was still wearing my fleece. I contemplated leaving it in the car, but then someone said that there was a trolley at the start where you could dump stuff, and it got wheeled to the finish which was some distance away. It was heaving with people, I couldn’t find any trolley. I’d missed the first timers’ briefing, but not the main one. Phew. I felt very lucky to have made it by the skin of my teeth. You know what, also, I didn’t need a precautionary pee. Whether this was because I’d already sweated out excess fluid at Delamere, or because I was running late it just hadn’t occurred to me I don’t know. Either way, I was just relieved not to need relieving. Phew. I think a lot of it is psychological for me… Sorry, you probably didn’t need to know that. Some of you will be interested though, for women of a certain age it’s an exceedingly common topic of parkrun conversation and a top priority in planning tourism! For future reference though, with that many shops around, as long as you were in time I’m sure you’d find a pee point somewhere.
It had a very friendly feel. There were lots of familiar faces from Delamere just less than an hour before. I asked a marshal about the trolley, and she confirmed it was around somewhere, but she couldn’t leave her spot as she was designated dog poo monitor, and was standing guard over a very impressive mound of faecal matter. Apparently, they normally have bags for this purpose, but she couldn’t find them, so she’d taken on the role with good grace. That dear reader is above and beyond, and should surely merit it’s very own running challenges virtual badge were it not for the fact that such an emblem might be seen as in poor taste. Maybe it falls within the category of ‘other’ but that hardly seems adequate recognition. Hi vis hero, I thank you!
Not since Frickley Country parkrun have I been at a parkrun with so much dog poo around the start area. It seems a risk for parkruns that are near the entrance points for parks and near to car parking spaces. My new year’s resolution to be non-judgemental and just delightful to everyone was already creaking under the pressure to offer good will to people who fly tip and people who let their dogs crap everywhere. Fortunately, the prospect of a parkrun always raises the spirits. Just mind where you put your feet if you are going.
The Run Director gave an enthusiastic briefing. Asking for a cheer from those who’d already run a parkrun today, and another from those who’d run between the two! There was a surprisingly loud cheer from the latter group, you’d have thought they’d have been all out of spare breath for cheering with after all that running around.
I found out later that the gold baton was passed on at this parkrun too. Strictly speaking the Leeds Building Society Golden Baton Relay has finished, but it’s fun it is carrying on unofficially I think. It had come all the way from Denmark apparently. It’s the Big Community Relay thingamajig. I’ve also seen one when I was at Cusworth Hall parkrun, I wonder how long they’ll carry on travelling for. There were a few…
Because I’d only just made it in time, and I couldn’t find the trolley, the call for off went up as I was still in my fleece. I suppose I could have taken it off and tied it round my waist, but you know what, I was a bit chilled what with having worked up a sweat during round one at Delamere, so decided to run in it. This would never have been permitted at my home run, as I have parkrunning ‘friends’ who are dedicated to ensuring I remove excess clothing prior to a run. However, they’ll never find out I reasoned, so off I trotted.
I say ‘off I trotted’ but the start was very congested. I put myself right at the back, and it was a big turn out. The path has fencing or hedging on either side, and although it’s not exactly narrow, it isn’t really ideal for almost 500 parkrunners heading off at the same time. Again, you couldn’t overtake, and just had to go with the flow, which pleases me. It was nice to watch the colourful thread of runners ahead, like bunting, following the curve of the fence line and heading on up a little hill. I hadn’t really got my head around the route at all, so it was all going to be a surprise. Good oh.
As before, I settled into a bit of a stop start pace, running for a bit, stopping to take some pictures and then running off again, and it became clear there were some others at a similar pace, some of whom I’d already met. It turned out to be quite an unexpectedly social morning. The marshals were, naturally, all excellent, and many were in the company of a canine assistant or more probably superviser.
Scenery and terrain wise, this parkrun was maybe a bit more coy in revealing its treasures than its near neighbour of Delamore. Obviously at this time of year the vegetation has died right back, and it was a gloomy day. However, a lot of love has gone into creating this space. There are waterways, and hedgerows, and sheep grazing. Rushes and grassland providing lots of habitat for invertebrates, and industrial features like iron bridges providing an added dimension of interest. It’s probably more obviously picturesque in spring, but lots to enjoy today, even a grey day. I really liked the details of ironwork on bridges, depicting birds and insects. You also get quite a mix of terrain, some undulations, some mud – always a hit – and lots to look at. Not least other parkrunners. There is also a more industrial backdrop, with factories and the shopping mall surrounding the green oasis of the park. It gives the place a very distinct character I think, and is a space to be treasured.
The marshals all seemed in good spirits, and were appropriately encouraging. Turns out some of these marshals were voice activated too, just like the ones at Delamer, they livened up noticeably when spoken to. I murmured to one something about it being an ‘unexpectedly lovely venue’ and then wondered if that sounded a bit rude. Oh well, I can apologise later. They were all also exceptionally photogenic, I think it’s because they radiate parkrun positivity, always a good look to be rocking! There was also a very nice robin, but I don’t know if it is always at the same spot. Might be though, they are very territorial after all…
Check out the bridges though. Lots, each unique in its own way.
You could say the same of the marshals, though I didn’t specifically ask them about their iron workings, nice hats though:
There was one slightly unexpected road bit, it’s very short, but you go out and then turn around a cone – they have blue cones here, not seen them before – and come straight back. Pleasingly, this meant you get to pass other parkrunners, so that’s quite social. Also, and I apologise, because I know you shouldn’t really have favourites, if you have your wits about you, you’ll espy the best marshal hat of the morning. I doubt the other marshals will begrudge this, though there were other worthy contenders in evidence, I think this one wins by a whisker because it is so context appropriate, and more practical than an actual plastic cone on the head, don’t you agree? All headgear sported though was very much appreciated by me at least, I do like a good hat.
As is my way, I had absolutely no idea where I was until I spotted a familiar marshal coming round again and deduced I was homeward bound. I also spotted a fellow tourist, who I recognised from some vague parkrun somewhere else who was running counter to the rest of us doing a warm down I think. Hoped so, wouldn’t have wanted to be told I’d been running the wrong way for the whole previous 4.9k or whatever!
The end again appears suddenly, round a corner. I was amongst the last home, but can report it was a cheery and enthusiastic welcome from accomplished marshals keeping order at the end. Fine hats here too. In fact, I’m sure I’ve seen that orange and white stripy bobble hat* somewhere before… loving the jester one as well.
I thanked the timers and said how much I’d enjoyed the run, because I had and she said ‘what really?’ I said. ‘Yes’. And she said ‘because someone else just said they had, and when I said really? They said ‘no’.’ I said ‘well, how very rude!’ because it is. Though it might be they were referring to the act of running after a night before rather than the parkrun venue I suppose. I know though I feel quite defensive of my own home parkrun, I recognise it has its foibles and its failings, but its still my home run and where it (for me at least) all began. Anyway, this was a fine parkrun. It was super friendly and enthusiastic, well organised and coped with extraordinary numbers. In fact, this was a record breaking parkrun I gather.
It’s becoming a bit of a habit for me of late to collect record breaking runs, I was at Bushy parkrun for their record Christmas Day attendance of 2545. That was pretty cool, hobnobbing with parkrun royalty. Paul and JOanne were lucky to hang out with me as I’m daughter of Elisabeth of Elisabeth’s corner fame, just so you know…
then this second record breaking performance was 474 runners, smashing their previous record attendance by four! Wow, that’s basically the beatles, or ABBA, or maybe even Little Mix, though to be fair the only celebrity I spotted today was Imran Ali (it’s a Parkrun Discussion Facebook Group thing, I’m not a member, bit toxic for me at times, but I am a
hypocrite stalker of it, so not gonna lie, know who he is). For those not in the know, I’d say basically parkrun Selfie King. Fact. Undisputed.
Mind you, all parkrunners are winners, so place was heaving with excellence to be fair. Northwich even beat Delamere parkrun’s attendance (on the day) for the first time ever, but it would be rude and churlish to draw attention to that now wouldn’t it?
Where was I? I got distracted, just as I was getting to the finish. So I’m at the finish, and I got to linger and chat to my newly acquired parkrun friends from the morning. One of ‘With me now‘ world tourist fame, so that’s good, and a fine selfie gift too, of which I am a beneficiary here:
but posed with other friends too for good measure – and did the obligatory selfie frame thing with some directorial input this time and hence more success than earlier! Look carefully, and you will see jester hatted man in the back of the frame. I choose to believe he is doing a classy bit of photo bombing there, and not just frantically waving at a friend. Loving your work!
The tailwalker came in, here demonstrating the newly requisitioned emergency barcodes issued too. Like I said, a record breaking run!
And then that was that, time to go home. It was a fair old walk back to the carpark, not miles and miles by any means, but far enough I was exceedingly glad of my fleece. This is another parkrun that has attention to detail, and they’d put some arrow signs in to direct you back to the carpark and town centre.
Bye bye for now Northwich parkrun, it’s been grand, thanks for a fabulous finish to a double dose of parkrun fun. You were awesome. Most hospitable, I’m so happy I chose you!
I’m also rather hoping given my effusive comments, you won’t mind that I’ve lifted some of your fine photos from your Facebook page? Thanks in anticipation, you parkrun folks are the best EVER!
So there we go. Sadly, the best things come to an end. On the plus side, not many sleeps til it’s parkrun day all over again, so mustn’t grumble eh? parkrunday, that day formerly known as Saturday, sigh. And if you really can’t be without parkrun til then, you can always top up with some parkrun related podcasts. I’ve only recently discovered these, have you?
Check out: independent parkrun-based podcast “With Me Now” with parkrun Veterans and uber-tourists Danny Norman and Nicola Forwood, or there is always the official parkrun podcast “Free Weekly Timed“, with Vassos Alexander and Helen Williams. Both are a great way to keep up to date with what is going on in the wider parkrun world, and extend the parkrun joy beyond a Saturday morning. Or, if you are in reflective mood, you could peruse Paul’s review of the 2019 parkrun year. Why not.
Before I go though, can I just finish with some pleasing parkrun UK stats trawling which inform us that:
📣 COMPLETELY USELESS RANDOM STAT KLAXON 🚨
Around the world, 101 parkrunners completed a parkrun on New Year’s Day in a time of 20:20 ⏱️
This pleases me. Well done all. If one of those runners had been me, not only would I have entered a parallel universe where I could run sub 21 let alone sub 35, I’d also have secured my last remaining parkrun Bingo number. I’ve been after it for nearly a year now, possibly longer. I have learned I do not possess a zen like countenance. Then again, you should be careful what you wish for, once I do finally get it, it will probably feel something of an anti-climax. Such is often the way…
By the way, you can read all my parkrun related posts here. Or not. It’s up to you. You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though, and you might be needing to get on with washing your hair or laying out your parkrun kit for Saturday or whatever, your time, your priorities.
That’s all folks.
I wish you happy parkrunning and other adventures in 2020. Be kind to yourself.
Oh, and at risk of repeating myself to my regular reader, but not wanting my one off visitor to miss out, I learn from the most amazing creation and stats cruncher that I was one of 203 who made that particular double. Check it out for yourself on this fab stats New Year’s Day Double tracker. Go on, treat yourself, have a browse. Bit of a time vampire, but soooooooooooooo worth it!
I don’t know too much about where this originated from but found this credit:
A map showing the parkrun ‘doubles’ that people managed on New Year’s Day 2020. The map is based on parkrun results, so may include errors where e.g. names have been manually entered. Unticking the Events layer makes the doubles more easy to see. Huge thanks to Ian Rutson for providing the base data. Please share freely!
And ‘with me now‘ say ‘Thanks to Charlie Pearce for creating the visualisation and Ian Rutson for supplying the data’ which is good enough for me!
– whatever wizardry created it though, respect! There’s even an international one from Australia to Canada! Hope some carbon offsetting went on…
Here’s to parkrunning adventures anew for 2020!
*EXCITING UPDATE REGARDING CONE HATS
They are a thing apparently a recent Northwich parkrun Facebook post states that:
We have received many comments on our “cone hats” and many of you may be wondering what it’s all about 🤷🏼♀️
One of our Run Directors, John, came up with the fantastic idea to raise funds for the North West Air Ambulance Charity following the support they provided when we sadly said goodbye to Terry out on our course last year.
To date, by either producing or providing kits to make the hats, John and the Northwich parkrun volunteers have managed to donate £232.50!
A fantastic idea in Terry’s memory!
So now we know. Nice hats, nice gesture.